By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
Last week, officials from the Kansas Department of Transportation came to Liberal to discuss House Bill 2650, a bill which proposes an increase in vehicle and truck registration fees, a 3/10 of a percent increase in state sales tax and a $1.7 billion issuance in bonds.
Monday, Seward County commissioners voted 3-1, with C.J. Wettstein voting against and vice chairman Jim Rice abstaining, to approve a letter supporting the legislation to be sent to state leaders, including Senate President Steve Morris, Senator Tim Huelskamp and Representative Carl Holmes.
Prior to the vote, Rice explained what could possibly happen if HB 2650 is passed as it now reads.
“The way I understand it now, up to 45 percent of that budget can be allocated to one highway district,” he said of the proposed bill. “If you get two districts like Wichita and Kansas City, 45 and 45, that leaves 10 percent for the rest of the state. That’s certainly not fair in my opinion.”
For this reason, commissioners, including Wettstein, suggested that a sentence be included in the letter about allocating the funds appropriately.
County administrator Mary Bloomer suggested sending the letter in Monday’s packet and sending another one later with the appropriate wording to get to Topeka by April 28, the date the state legislature reconvenes.
The letter stated the fee and sales tax increases and the issuance of bonds were made “in order to preserve our investments in Kansas roads and encourage economic development across the state of Kansas.”
“The Board of County Commissioners of Seward County fully supports the passage of this legislation and believes it to be in the best interest of Kansas, so long as these funds stay dedicated for its intended purpose and to further the 2013 road plan as proposed and the funds do not get swept into the general fund or other such funds to bail out another troubled budget year,” the letter said.
Liberal Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rozelle Webb, who sent a letter to Bloomer stating the Chamber supports HB 2650, said by funding the transportation bill, jobs will be provided.
“Our economy will be revitalized, and our investment already made in our infrastructure will be protected,” she said.
Webb said the Chamber encourages Seward County to send a letter of support for the bill to legislators.
“We believe if the city, county, college, JEDC and chamber each submit a letter to be sent in one packet to each legislator, the impact will be greater,” she said.